Antient Concert Rooms

Antient Concert Rooms

In Brief

Still on Great Brunswick (now Pearse) Street, the funeral cortège passes by the "Antient concert rooms." Bloom thinks, "Nothing on there." But this private hall, home of the Society of Antient Concerts since the 1840s, did host an impressive number of concerts and other entertainment events.

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Several members of Joyce's musical family sang in the Antient Concert Rooms, including his father and one of his mother's aunts. James himself sang there on 24 August 1904, and again on August 27 in the Grand Irish Concert that also featured legendary tenor John McCormack. Of the first concert, the Freeman's Journal reported on August 25 that "Mr. J. A. Joyce’s fine tenor was heard to advantage in 'Down by the Sally Garden' and 'My Love She was born in the north Countree'. He was warmly applauded." Ellmann records that the paper covered the second concert as well, writing that "James A. Joyce, the possessor of a sweet tenor voice, sang charmingly 'The Salley Gardens,' and gave a pathetic rendering of 'The Croppy Boy.'" Of McCormack, the paper said that he "was the hero of the evening. It was announced as his last public appearance in Ireland."

About the August 27 concert, Ellmann quotes also (168) from Joseph Holloway's diary: "The attendance was good but the management of the entertainment could not have been worse. The Irish Revivalists are sadly in need of a capable manager. At present they invariably begin considerably after the time advertised and make the audience impatient; thus they handicap the performers unwarrantably. Tonight was no exception to the rule; and after the first item, the delay was so long that the audience became quite noisy and irritable . . . The substitute appointed as accompanist in place of Miss Eileen Reidy, who left early in the evening, was so incompetent that one of the vocalists, Mr. James A. Joyce, had to sit down at the piano and accompany himself in the song 'In Her Simplicity,' after she had made several unsuccessful attempts to strum out 'The Croppy Boy,' the item programmed over the singer's name."

Joyced mined these embarrassments for material that he worked into the memorable Dubliners story "A Mother," which takes place in the Antient Concert Rooms.

JH 2015
Drawing of the building in Henry Shaw's Dublin Pictorial Guide & Directory (1850). Source:
Today, the building houses The Academy Cinema. Source: Gareth Collins.